By: Rithika Siddhartha and Sailesh Ram
RISHI SUNAK paid tribute to his family as his elevation to become Britain’s first Asian prime minister kept him on top of the 2023 GG2 Power List for the second consecutive year and was also recognised with a coveted award in London on Tuesday (7).
Sunak tops the ranking of the country’s 101 most influential south Asians after he moved into 10 Downing Street, following the resignation of Liz Truss in October last year.
In a video message at the annual GG2 Leadership and Diversity Awards in central London on Tuesday, Sunak paid tribute to his grandparents and thousands of other migrants of that generation, who came to the UK in search of a better life.
He said, “Tonight’s event and the GG2 Power List 101 is a reflection of the tremendous success the British Asian community has made across all walks of life.
“It’s heartening to hear of the stories of so many winners who have worked hard to establish themselves and build a new life with their families.
“This is a universal story, which particularly resonates with me with my own grandparents and parents who came to this country, not just to dream of a bright future, but to create one. Like so many here, they were determined to contribute back to this great country, which gave us all so many countless opportunities to excel.”
The prime minister joked that his parents – pharmacist mum Usha and GP dad Yashvir Sunak – wanted him to become a doctor – alluding to the cliché about Asian parents’ ambition for their children.
“My parents always wanted me to become a doctor. Sadly, I left them disappointed, but I hope I’ve done them proud with this award,” Sunak said, adding, “becoming prime minister has been the greatest honour of my life.”
Sunak won GG2 Hammer Award, the top honour of the evening, which was collected by Grant Shapps MP, the secretary of state for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.
Only a few years ago, at the 2014 event, hosted annually by the Asian Media Group (AMG), the publishers of Garavi Gujarat, a sister title of Eastern Eye, that then prime minister David Cameron predicted Britain would have its first Asian Conservative prime minister in this generation.
AMG’s executive editor, Shailesh Solanki, said: “Rishi Sunak’s achievement cannot be overstated. It is an undeniable sign that Britain is changing.
“People of colour can now tell their children it is in the realm of possibility that you can be the prime minister, regardless of your background or ethnicity.”
Recalling Cameron’s 2014 remarks, Solanki added: “It seemed a bit unreal at the time, but that has now happened, perhaps sooner than anyone thought possible. It is a source of immense pride.
“Whatever your political beliefs, a person of Indian origin – the son of first-generation east African Indian origin immigrants – is now in the most powerful position in the land.
“It is brilliant, and shows not only how far we have come as a society, but also the undoubted strides both Britain and the Conservative party have made in striving for a more equal and balanced playing field for all.
“That is not to say there is not work still to be done or that racism has been eradicated in Britain, but it shows that progress can and has been made, and it is an inspiring achievement.”
It was a double celebration for the prime minister, who topped the latest edition of the GG2 Power List of 101 most influential British Asians for the second consecutive year. The latest edition was unveiled at Tuesday’s ceremony.
Now in its 13th year, the GG2 Power List is the definitive guide to Asians in positions of power and influence across the UK.
London mayor Sadiq Khan follows Sunak in second place on the list, while home secretary Suella Braverman is ranked third.
Cambridge University’s Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta and the court of appeal judge, Sir Rabinder Singh, round off the top five positions.
Ranked six to 10 in the list are actor Riz Ahmed; high court judge Dame Bobbi Cheema Grubb; Chanel CEO Leena Nair; businessman Gopi Hinduja and family; and Bridgerton actress Simone Ashley, respectively.
Launched on the eve of International Women’s Day (8), the GG2 Power List features 32 women. This year’s edition also sees 23 new entrants.
Besides Ashley, other new female entrants this year are Claire Coutinho, who serves as the minister for children, families and wellbeing (17th); Nusrat Ghani, the minister of state at the newly created Department for Business and Trade (20th); and academic Dr Swati Dhingra (24th). She sits on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, which deliberates on UK interest rates. Dhingra, an associate professor of economics at the London School of Economics (LSE), was one of the panellists in a discussion on diversity at Tuesday’s event.
The deputy political editor of ITV News, Anushka Asthana (61); president and managing director of Warner Brothers Priya Dogra (63) and founder of Vardags, Ayesha Vardag (80) are also in the list of influential Asians.
Solanki said both the GG2 Leadership & Diversity Awards and the GG2 Power List sought to encourage and motivate those striving to make Britain an inclusive, diverse and fair society at all levels.
It was also important to highlight the work women have been doing to counter sexism, discrimination and inequality, he added.
“There are many, many brilliant women on the GG2 Power List – but perhaps not as many as we would all like. It serves to remind us we need to do more to remove the barriers preventing all women, especially those from diverse backgrounds, from achieving their dreams and ambitions,” Solanki said.
“Along with our GG2 Diversity & Leadership Awards, and our new Diversity Hub portal, we want to say we are on your side and are also striving to foster greater equality.”
Music composer Nitin Sawhney (ranked 45); the Liberal Democrats peer and philanthropist Lord Rumi Verjee (47); and Conservative peer and the prime minister’s trade envoy to Rwanda and Uganda, Lord Dolar Popat (74), are recognised for their efforts in the GG2 Power List.
Sunak said in his message, “I’m very sorry that I can’t be with you. Because I love the GG2 awards. I love the food. I love the mauj, masti (fun and fervour) and of course, I love the selfies. But I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the winners.”
He added, “As I stood on the steps of Downing Street as your Prime Minister for the first time, I vowed to work day and night for the British people. And I’m committed to lead a government that has integrity, professionalism, and accountability at the heart of everything it does.”
More than 700 people attended the GG2 Leadership and Diversity Awards, where high-achieving individuals and companies were also recognised for their efforts in promoting diversity, equality and inclusion.
• Full coverage of the event will be published in next week’s Eastern Eye
• To book a copy of the GG2 Power List, contact Saurin Shah on 020 7928 1234 or email [email protected][TheChamp-Sharing]